Sociology for the Nineties

29th March 1996 at 00:00
INVESTIGATING EDUCATION AND TRAINING. Sociology in Action series. Paul Trowler. Collins Educational, Pounds 8.95.

This is the first text directly aimed at the A-level sociology market which genuinely brings the sociology of education into the 1990s.

It does seem rather odd that the vocationalism that has been the focus of so much controversy for more than a decade in education studies and sociology has not really been covered adequately in the majority of student textbooks on this part of the syllabus.

Paul Trowler's book puts this right with great style and detail - hence the word "training" in the title. In addition, we have a book which offers an insight into other aspects of the world of education and training that have largely been ignored in the standard texts.

A chapter on disabilities and learning difficulties is a welcome development, but it does make me think that we have waited much too long for this inclusion. Chapters on educational policy and research techniques are also included, and these topics represent further "newer areas for consideration".

So, there is much that is new in this book, and many teachers of sociology at A-level will be grateful for this. They will be able to integrate these newer elements into their teaching programmes.

There is more good news, though, because Trowler has chapters on race and ethnicity, social class and gender too. Such chapter titles are, of course, obligatory in a text on education and training, but a lot of the studies included are quite recent and this is a real bonus for teachers who want to introduce their students to ideas which have currency in today's Britain.

It is great to see up-to-date ideas and data about under-achievement and ethnic minorities rather than tired statistics from the early 80s. Equally, the chapter on social class really does address the question of social mobility in terms of what has happened in Britain recently, rather than getting bogged down in studies from the 60s and 70s. In the gender chapter, too, the myth of female under-achievement is tackled.

Trowler and his co-authors from the University of Central Lancashire have produced a book which clearly has the potential to increase students' knowledge about what is happening in schools and colleges but it should be noted that they encourage students to develop criticalevaluative skills too. This is absolutely crucial, given the requirements of examinations. As a further bonus, the text deals with points about sociological perspectives where appropriate, reinforcing student understanding of this difficult aspect of the syllabus.

There are sections of this book that A-level students will struggle with. The chapter on educational policy is rather dense, but then the ideas involved are complex. Teachers and students will have to work together closely on these difficult sections. But students will enjoy many of the activities which appear regularly in each chapter. A few activities seem to be impractical, but most should encourage productive group discussion.

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